A Genomics Firm Sequenced The Novel Coronavirus As Early As 27 December But Faced Gag Order From Chinese ApparatchiksRepresentative Image (Pic via Twitter)

Apparatchiks at China’s top medical authority moved quickly to suppress the findings of a Guangzhou-based genomics company that sequenced the new strain of coronavirus as early as Dec 27 and had established that it resembled the SARS virus that killed nearly 800 people in 2002-2003, an investigation by a Chinese publication Caixin has revealed.

Guangzhou-based genomics company had sequenced most of the virus from fluid samples from the lung of a 65-year old delivery man who worked at the seafood market where many of the first cases emerged. But they were ordered by local and national officials to hand over or destroy the samples and not release their findings.

Local doctors sent at least eight other patient samples from hospitals around Wuhan to multiple Chinese genomics companies, including industry heavyweight BGI, requesting them to determine the root cause behind the growing number of cases of unexplained respiratory disease.

in an attempt to keep the spread of infection under wraps, local health officials in Wuhan also chose not to inform a health team from Beijing during a visit on Jan 8 that local medical staff had already been infected by patients. The city then went ahead with its lunar new year celebration on January, which brought thousands of families to the city to celebrate, without informing people that coronavirus was transmissible between humans.

Though China notified the World Health Organisation (WHO) on Dec 31 about the emergence of an unidentified infectious disease, it shared the virus' genome sequence with the world only 2 weeks after. It was only in the third week of January that Chinese authorities confirmed publicly that the virus was spreading between people.

In recent weeks, Chinese state media has launched propaganda blitz to shift focus away from Beijing’s failures.

Covid-19, the disease caused by SARS-CoV-2, has now claimed nearly 8,000 lives, infected close to 20000 people and spread to more than 80 countries.

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